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Liars and Boxers and Mayors! Oh My!

By Kathy Y. Wilson · November 1st, 2001 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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There are few things more painful, hilarious and sad than suffering through the low jinks of candidates' TV commercials during election time. It's just not fair.

It's like this: Funny, witty and biting are one thing, but stupid, demeaning and mean-spirited are telling of the character of people who assume we want those qualities in our future and returning leaders. For (many) council candidates and Mister Charlie alike, coming right out and asking for our vote or merely demonstrating they deserve our vote is secondary to raising their profiles at the expense of someone else.

Every time I'm about to change the channel at the sight of one these public disservices, I ask myself, "Are they sure they want my vote?" Do they really? It doesn't seem like it.

If they did, they 1) wouldn't take themselves so seriously (see the ads of Vice Mayor Minette Cooper, council challenger David Pepper and Councilman John Cranley) and 2) wouldn't assume registered voters to be the idiots they pander to.

(For displays of general idiocy, see the ads of a shadowboxing Councilwoman Alicia Reece "knocking out" the city's social ills and candidate Jane Anderson mocking the youthfulness of a John Cranley lookalike.)

Besides serving as barometers of egos, these commercials also say a lot about who's got the money. For example, the production value of Reece's piece is low-fi, sorta like the early days of BET when the black cable network had two music videos and one commercial.

Reece might have more money than her commercial lets on, which is duly noted in the proliferation of her yard signs.

Pepper's and Cranley's budgets are obviously huge, with their serious, paternalistic tones. With brows furrowed and shirt sleeves rolled up, Pepper frolics with family and walks the grounds of Withrow High School, letting us know he comes from old money when he says, "My great-great-grandfather helped build this building."

Cranley could even afford to pay actors to re-create a familiar scene of cops chasing a bad guy. That one deserves a statue.

Cooper's commercial is, unintentionally, one of the funniest. The vice mayor doesn't tell us anything she's accomplished during her tenure, choosing, instead, a Gone With the Wind-themed spot so sugary sweet it sends my diabetic ass into a coma. When I come to, Cooper is standing at the Eden Park overlook gazing across the river.

Perhaps she's daydreaming of freedom. Or maybe she's hoping voters will "overlook" her vapid, pie-in-the-sky message and vote for her because she's the un-candidate.

Aaah, goodness and light.

Speaking of which, Laketa Cole's commercial doesn't tell us what she's about other than being for "everybody." Cole frolics with supporters, who eventually converge in a nondescript field where she shakes hands with former Mayor Dwight Tillery.

The payoff, however, is a catchy phrase, "When you go to the polls, vote for Cole." I haven't heard an election catchphrase that memorable since "Yates in Your Face" propelled Tyrone Yates to his last council term.

David Crowley's commercial is about the only straightforward ad that doesn't make him out to be suffering from delusions of grandeur (see Cranley, Luken, Cooper, et al). Crowley runs down his accomplishments and qualifications and doesn't mention anything about his age or anyone else's.

Mister Charlie does a typical turn bashing Courtis Fuller, depicting the cut-out, Easter Island-like face of Fuller "flipping" on the issues backed by pages from The N-quirer endorsing Luken. Meanwhile, Mayor Fuller is typically absent from the TV ad fray.

Others (thankfully) absent from television -- as far as I can tell -- are Ken Anderson, Toni Andrews, Theo Barnes, Dawn Denno, Akiva Freeman, Tom Jones, Nathaniel Livingston, Sam Malone, Todd Ward, Clarence Williams III, Eric Wilson and others.

For sheer entertainment value, I'd like to see Williams and Livingston come up with some last-minute TV spots.

Williams the candidate could get his namesake (of The Mod Squad and Purple Rain fame) to reprise his role as Link. Just like in the opening credits of The Mod Squad, we see Link running through rain-soaked alleys of Cincinnati to City Hall, where Williams the candidate sits down with other council members. Williams the actor takes the microphone to voice some displeasure about police brutality or subsidized housing, and we fade out on Williams the candidate shaking hands with Williams the actor.

As for Livingston, I could go for anything raw, untoward and grainy like, say, news clips of him disrupting Mister Charlie's speech on Fountain Square. The tag line? "Sameness Interruptus."

Of course we all know that television ads aren't the full measure of the candidate. They simply prove who's got the money and the moxie to make fools of themselves with the expectation they'll be taken seriously when it comes time to do the work.

Candidates too broke -- or, in the case of Mayor Fuller, too stubborn -- to advertise aren't to be penalized, really. Though most of them should be.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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